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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fromage Blanc Tart





This is a light but richly delicious Alsatian cheese tart, based on fromage blanc, a fresh cheese similar to strained yogurt.  If  you can't find or make fromage blanc, the tart can also be made with whole milk ricotta.  It's somewhat reminiscent of cheesecake, but without the heaviness; pure bliss.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Two Sugarhouses




In case you didn't visit Vermont last weekend to tour the sugarhouses, I was your surrogate.  I visited three of them, sampling syrup out of plastic cups, and eating homemade doughnuts, maple sugar everything, syrup on snow (sort of a maple slurpie), five kinds of cheese, and I forget what else.

That might make you glad you didn't come, but you missed something great, basic and incredibly real, even at the touristy places.  I met people who have worked hard, rocky Vermont farms for eight generations, learning and changing their techniques to suit the times.  I had a glimpse at a way of life that is tied to a seasonal rhythm, and people who are proud of what they do.  It's a good life, and many of these farmers live into their nineties, still active and involved in the farm.

That's despite all the syrup and doughnuts.  Or maybe because of it.  Which has me wondering:  is there something especially beneficial in maple syrup?  Like those rare molds that live only in the rain forest...could it be?   
No.  That's the syrup talking.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sugaring Time: Maple-Maple Beef Tenderloin with Confetti Eggplant



 



It's been a busy weekend, visiting sugar houses in Windsor and Rutland counties.  I tried countless samples of maple syrup of all grades, and I can honestly say I loved them all.  As well as the homemade doughnuts, maple sugar on snow, maple sugar candy, and a few other things I shouldn't have eaten, but did.

And, I am now the owner of two half-gallons and another quart of different syrups from different places.  No problem, I'll find something to do with it.  

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sugaring Time: Maple Sugar Applesauce Breakfast Cake






Today the sky is blue, the temperature is 28F,  and smoke is pouring from sugarhouses all over Vermont.  This is open house weekend for maple sugar makers across the state, so be there if you can. 

I've made a breakfast cake featuring pure Vermont maple sugar  and walnuts.  The basic approach is similar to a sponge cake, but brought back down to breakfast level by adding yogurt and thick, homemade cinnamon applesauce.

I'm glad to use the applesauce, because before long the apple trees will bloom again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sugaring Time: Maple Caramelized Onion and Bacon Pie








Here is a Vermont version of a classic Tarte FlambĂ©e, or Flammkuche, depending on where you're from.  This is a thin, crisp crust topped with creme fraiche, lardons, and onions.  I have changed it up by using caramelizing the onions, using smoky, intense Vermont bacon, fresh rosemary, a bit of my own cheese and......maple syrup.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sugaring Time: Elk Medallions with Maple-Cassis reduction





It's that time again.

This weekend, sugar houses around Vermont welcome visitors to experience the wonder that is maple syrup.   It's on my mind.  Our gallon, purchased from the shuttle bus driver up in Lebanon last year, is getting low.  Low to me is less than half a bottle, as it turns out.  Ample excuse for driving from sugar house to sugar house this weekend, sampling. 

There are three kinds of Grade A syrup, but I like Grade B, which is dark, with a pronounced maple flavor.  Don't bother with the more expensive Grade A, which is very much lighter and milder.  Not the same thing at all.  Keep in mind that people in Vermont originally sweetened everything with syrup, so the mild kind was prized. 

This recipe is the first of several I've been considering for maple syrup.   I wanted to complement local farm-raised elk medallions with flavors that would balance and hold their own with maple.
I've used Vermont Cassis from Putney Mountain Winery, to provide a suprisingly appropriate and delicious counterpoint.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Almost Spring: Peach and Blackberry Clafouti





When the going gets tough, the tough make Clafouti.

Taking a break from the cheesemaking, it occurred to me that all of the fruits I canned last fall need to be used up before next fall.... and we haven't made much of a dent.   I've given some away, used some, but there are still a lot of jars downstairs.  I think that things reproduce in my basement; cardboard boxes, mismatched glassware, irresistible items from IKEA, skis.... there are just more all the time.

But you never know when you're going to need these things.  Recently our power went out for 4 days, and I was glad we had the big box of half-burnt candles, the various candlesticks, the generator, and the extension cords.   And of course the peaches.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My new cheese: Hawks Mountain







I like this cheese so much that I named it!
I've been waiting five months for this; it's the result of my quest to make a mountain cheese, or at least my idea of a mountain cheese.  It's rugged on the outside, but tender and delicious on the inside.  This morning, I gave it the omelette test with local araucana eggs, and it passed with flying colors!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Winter Gruyere's Tale





If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia, on the like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see, as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.

It's late winter in Vermont and I'm making Gruyere.   Much of the snow is gone, and sugaring has begun in earnest.  Mud season is upon us.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sourdough Redux, part 2: Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits






Here is another nice way to use extra sourdough starter, particularly if you have a dog.  These treats are quick to make, use ingredients you probably have, and are gratifyingly well-received.  

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Raclette





Ah Raclette.  It's a cheese, and it's what you call dinner when serving this cheese, melted and scraped from the wheel.  (The word raclette is from the French racler, "to scrape".) 

There is something aesthetically perfect about Raclette, which is hard to pin down.  The cheese is firm, but not hard; balanced in flavor, and with superb melting characteristics.  Excess calcium is rinsed out with clear water before pressing, to keep the curd tender.  I age this cheese for four months, with regular brine washings.